James Woolsey Versus Edward Snowden

Christopher H. Pyle

I was surfing channels the other night and came across former CIA director James Woolsey declaring, in high moral dudgeon, that NSA leaker Edward Snowden “should be prosecuted for treason [and] hanged by his neck until he is dead.”

Woolsey’s remark led me to think about where I had heard such righteous hypocrisy before. The competition was fierce, but I settled on the late eighteenth century, when the imperial British Navy harried alleged mutineers and ship jumpers to the far corners of the globe.

Like Snowden, British sailors back then could not safely complain through channels about the brutality of their captains. The system was stacked against them.

Ed Snowden and his supportive reporters, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, along with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, now know that exile from the United States is the price they must pay for revealing abuses of governmental power to the American people. Putin’s Russia has become Ed Snowden’s Pitcairn’s Island — a sorry place of refuge from the relentless pursuit of the world’s greatest super power.

These exiles know that Woolsey’s CIA, like Britain’s imperial navy, recognizes few limitations on its powers. It has kidnapped people from the United States and Europe for torture in foreign lands and killed American citizens abroad with remote-controlled drones. No one is safe from the long arm of its injustice, just as no one was safe from British sea power in the eighteenth century.

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